Watching Gerrit Nijenhuis compete in last year’s PIAA Class AAA wrestling tournament was spellbinding.
Nijenhuis blew through the 170-pound weight class the way a locomotive barrels down the side of a mountain.
It picks up speed through every twist and turn of the rails and it is best to stay out of its away.
Nijenhuis had as close to a perfect tournament as one can get, dominating the four matches required to win the gold medal. In the process, he knocked off two-time state champion, Edmond Ruth of Susquehanna Township, in the championship bout.
So dominating was Nijenhuis’ performance that he was named the Outstanding Wrestler for the Class AAA portion of the tournament.
Now, the senior from Canon-McMillan and Purdue commit has the opportunity to do it again and that will be fun to watch.
Nijenhuis begins his journey on Thursday afternoon at the Giant Center in Hershey.
Nijenhuis is looking to become the first two-time champion for the Big Macs since Solomon Chisko won his second in 2014.
“You never want to look at it different,” said Nijenhuis, who has a 43-0 record. “You want to come in with the same perspective no matter who you wrestle or how high they are ranked. Once you get to the state tournament, you just have to make sure you come in wrestling well and with your best foot forward.”
Nijenhuis won’t wrestle in the preliminary round, which gets underway at 4 p.m., but he will get to wrestle someone who did, either Jake Marnell of Hazleton or Dylan Forbes of New Oxford. Marnell is a senior with a 42-5 record and fourth-place finisher in the Northeast Region. Forbes is a junior with a 32-9 record after a fourth-place finish in the Southcentral Region.
Nijenhuis has two third-place finishes and a first in his last three state tournaments.
“I always wanted to be a four-timer,” he said. “If not, then you want to be the next best thing. Every year before this I wasn’t the favorite to win it so I’m coming in with the same attitude as last year.”
Nijenhuis said it’s too late in the season to make major changes in his wrestling.
“I’ll make little tweaks or changes,” he said. “I’ll go through tough workouts. There is definitely no such thing as overworked, just under-recovery.”
Waynesburg comes into this tournament with high hopes add a powerful group of wrestlers. The Raiders have five qualifiers who could be somewhere on the awards stand by the time the finals end Saturday night.
The five include Mac Church at 106 pounds, Rocco Welsh at 126, Cole Homet at 132, Wyatt Henson at 138 and Luca Augustine at 160.
Homet finds himself in arguably the toughest weight class. That’s where returning state champion Alejandro Herrera-Rondon of Seneca Valley, Kenny Hermann of Bethlehem Catholic, a state runner-up at 132; Gabe Willochell of Latrobe, who was fourth at 132 pounds last season; and the highly regarded Patrick Noonan of Stroudsburg are on the prowl.
Augustine finds himself opposite of the bracket where Jack Blumer resides but on the same side as Clayton Ulrey of Lower Dauphin, the runner-up in the weight class last year.
“I’m going into a weight class with some of the best wrestlers in the country,” said Augustine. “And I know I can compete with them. I’m going to get out there and give it my all.”